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I'm a System Administrator in a web solutions company. We're a company of about 50-70 people in Developer, Marketing, and Control Project teams.

Because of my type of job, I'm getting 30+ phone calls every day describing and reporting problems in system or to deploy something. We have a web-based ticketing system, but my coworkers call me directly instead of using it. I hate when a coworker calls me instead of submitting a technical issue in our ticketing system.

How can I get them to stop calling me and use the ticketing system instead?

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    Is it a rule that they must always use the ticketing system? What makes them assume it's OK to just call? – user34587 Jun 13 '18 at 7:16
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    Obvious answer is to direct them to the ticketing system and refuse to provide help unless they have described their issue there and have a ticket number. But that relies on the fact that you can do that and your manager is okay with pushing back this hard. Are you sure this annoyance isn't part of your job? (Unlikely if you're a full-fledged system admin, but you'll want to check.) – Lilienthal Jun 13 '18 at 7:33
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    Are you required to answer the phone every time it rings? Let them roll to voicemail, and on the outgoing message, say "If you're calling to report a problem, please go to <ticket system> so that it can be registered and processed in a timely fashion. Issues reported on this voicemail will not be logged." – alroc Jun 13 '18 at 11:19
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    @BenMz my company is about the same size and we require that any request to IT, developers, etc. be done via a ticketing system. It's the only sane way to track and prioritize work items. Otherwise, you're constantly changing tasks, always working on things for the last person to walk up to your desk before finishing the last (or a more important) task. – alroc Jun 14 '18 at 14:11
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You have a cultural and organizational problem there. People are used to having you at their beck and call, and proper communication channels are neither institutionalized nor set up.

If you are indeed their only Sysadmin, obviously with such a high volume of calls you won't be able to do any reasonable work toward improving things during work hours.

If you have indeed already have a help desk department, I am afraid you will have to enforce proper communication channels and escalation procedures. Stop answering the phone, or pass that phone number to the help desk team. You might also have to be ticker skinned and enlist an higher up help, as people might leave their desks and get physically to you. So please read on.

Start registering in an Excel spreadsheet the number of calls and duration. Build a paper trail of hours spent in a week and in a month, and make it a documented case that you need a junior/help desk person to handle those calls and go to people desks. Be prepared to present a case to your superior that it is impossible to do the work you are hired for on the long term: if you spend all your time dealing with calls and putting out fires, you won't gain the knowledge or have the time for improving things for the long term.

It also might help remembering (or reminding your manager) that your cost per hour of work is much higher than a help desk employee. Cost numbers might speak higher for certain type of managers. If you could enlist the help of someone used to do this kind of calculations and extrapolate some numbers about (not) doing maintenance and hiring external consulting teams to do the work you do not have the time to do, so much the better.

Also, establish priorities (with the blessing of your superiors). For instance, the dev department will get a higher priority than the other departments. In my last job I dedicated at least a couple of hours every day to be with the development department, as as a result my job become easier helping them and knowing what they needed in terms of support and infrastructure.

PS. From my experience, in the past, I worked for a corporation that had a business on the side in a industry field that do required a lot of expertise. The previous person on my place was let go twice from two locations, because ultimately, he spent all the time talking with people instead of taking care of issues to guarantee things were automated and working swiftly.

Twice I had to clean up big mistakes after he left. My different take was that I enforced proper channels and escalation, and indeed also had a meeting with the General Manager where I conveyed that they/I had to have another IT person taking care of the corporate desktop PC side for me to focus on our multi-million business side. They got me such person in a few weeks.

Fortunately in my last job in a smallish organization, my superior who hired me knew my talents, and I was never put to deal directly with the day-to-day grind, and dealt only with projects and escalation issues, and thus my salary was largely paid doing complex projects tidying up the house and stabilizing the network and associated services that then did not need to be outsourced to expensive consultants.

Finally, 2 solid business cases on point:

We had something like 30+ wifi authentication tickets per day. Instead of me dealing with each case personally, we had a rookie dealing with them, whilst I studied, tested and became the community expert on the equivalent opensource technology. When my new infrastructure setup and procedures were placed on production, we went from 30 tickets per day to 1.5 tickets per day. Had we not a rookie and an help desk dealing with the 30 tickets per day, the old infra-structure would be still on place, or they would have had to outsource a project to Microsoft, paying probably 1 year worth of my salary.

I also handled a big security problem during 3 weeks, that while my colleagues were handling the complaints of interruptions of Internet connectivity, I did a big infra-structure and security investigation that paid probably for 3 or 4 years of my salary had it been outsourced to security consultants.

However, I did all of this and so much more than those projects because I was not all day putting out fires.

13

I hate when a coworker calls me instead of submitting a technical issue in our ticketing system. We're using the Web-based ticketing system for this matter.

"Sorry, I'm a bit busy to take details of this over the phone right now - if you use our internal ticketing system at (x), I'll get back to you ASAP."

People likely ring you about problems because it's easier for them than submitting a report through the ticketing system, and if historically you've been accepting of this, then they'll carry on doing so. Start pushing back and refusing to take details over the phone if you can.

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    KISS principle this is the answer. – JonH Jun 20 '18 at 18:15
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I too have suffered from this in the past. The solution I got was to say on the phone: "Thank you for letting me know, unfortunately I need a bug report to be able to start working on this issue, has I need to justify the time I spend."

Over time the number of phone calls I received lowered significantly.

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    That is overly dependent on the culture, support of upper management, how strong are internal "politics", and the size of the organization. In my current job that stance works, because we are a very big organization. In my former job, where we were vulnerable to a lot of internal political manipulations, it took years of effort to enforce proper communication channels, and even then, there were people short-circuiting the communication channels with their perceived "urgent" matters or their days of former grandiosity inside the institution ("I am too important to be handled by help desk") – Rui F Ribeiro Jun 13 '18 at 9:35
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I had this EXACT issue when I took over the department I run, now.

A bit of cultural change is required, and it can be light-hearted. I started referring to people interrupting techs on the phone or (even worse) stopping them in the hallways as "drive-by's." I've put up a few comics outside our offices (when I was in the main office) explaining it. This is VERY culturally dependent, so be careful. (I avoided any images of firearms or actual violence.) Kids throwing water balloons, pie-in-the-face, that sort of thing may be where to start.

Second, get rid of the user having to enter a ticket. Set up an email relay into your ticketing system. Yes, you'll not get quite as much info, but when you use the ticketing system to have your agents query them for the details you need, you'll soon get people to realize that they get faster responses when they give your team enough data.

Look at it from the users' POV: They may have 3 or 4 problems that need your team's assistance per year. They don't remember the path to the ticketing system because they don't use it enough. It's like the purchase order system: Some people in charge of materials and equipment will use it 5 times per day. People in charge of a birthday party that want to get a few decorations from CostCo probably aren't very proficient at it.

Meet them halfway, keep it lighthearted, and enjoy some peace.

If you absolutely have to have staff enter tickets (which I really think should be evaluated critically), perhaps having that responsibility limited to managers and supervisors would work?

  • A ticketing system is important in a lot of industries. In my case, medical, all IT requests go through a help desk, a ticket is generated, and then the ticket is assigned to the appropriate resource. (We use TFS for dev work) This is important for the purposes of auditing. ( I voted for your answer BTW ) – Mister Positive Jun 14 '18 at 14:15
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    @Neo - If there is a clear business REQUIREMENT to the company to use the ticketing system, then it is up to the employees' managers to enforce procedure, and it should be handled between managers. I inferred (and perhaps incorrectly) that this was a case where the IT Department was implementing it as procedure, but no requirement to do so from C-Level(s). – Wesley Long Jun 14 '18 at 17:28
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I have been guilty of doing just that though I have always been polite (least I could do). Some of the reasons I used to call him directly were: 1. The ticketing system was too complicated (for me at least) and I just couldn't find the right option matching the issue I faced. 2. Response time to tickets was not good enough. For eg. I have to send out an urgent email and I'm disconnected from the LAN for some reason, I wouldn't raise a ticket and wait for someone to show up and fix it. 3. Incompetent handling of tickets. Oftentimes, a junior engineer would change the ticket status after just having a chat with me without actually solving the problem. 4. I have also been in really embarrassing situations, especially during client meetings, when some IT-related equipment won't work. In such times, clearly a ticketing system just doesn't work.

So from my experience, a simpler ticketing system and committed turnaround time help to a large extent. But some phone calls are par for the course, in my opinion.

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    Although very good points are raised, this does not really address the question. – morsor Jun 13 '18 at 8:42
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    #4 is understandable. #2 is tricky. For some people, everything they do is urgent and important (even when it's not). #3 can be resolved by sending out an optional survey everytime a ticket is marked resolved. "This ticket has been marked resolved. Do you agree with that assessment?" #1 is tricky too – Stephan Branczyk Jun 13 '18 at 9:46
  • @StephanBranczyk I agree that #2 is quite subjective. Trouble is most managers would never take "IT issue is being resolved" as an answer, they'd just assume that the IT admin would fix it pronto. And this pressure unfortunately gets passed on to the IT guys. I agree with #3 too though it's not foolproof. – Toby Pickles Jun 13 '18 at 11:34
  • @TobyPickles If the pressure and political fluff is not being filtered by the UT manager, the manager is not doing his job. – Rui F Ribeiro Jun 13 '18 at 21:51
  • Downvote for "response time to tickets was not good enough." - That is a separate issue from the ticket system. If there aren't enough resources, that is an organizational problem. "Throwing a fit on the phone" is NEVER a way to set priorities. – Wesley Long Aug 14 '18 at 17:22
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The short and sweet answer is stop "feeding" them. It sounds like when they contact you by phone you go ahead and take care of their problem. There's no reason for them to go through the hassle of using the ticketing system.

Refuse to help them unless they use the ticketing system. Simple answer. It will cause some hurt feelings, but you should mention how the ticketing system helps with reporting, identifying issues with the hardware, and helps you get to their issues faster.

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    Making people jump thru hoops to ask for help in a small company needs to be explained very nicely with a good explanation of why the hoops are necessary for the good of the company and an attempt to make it as simple and efficient as possible. – Ben Mz Jun 13 '18 at 22:12
  • @BenMz You are truly bizarre. Could you read the question again, especially the last sentence? – gnasher729 Jun 26 '18 at 22:15
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You ask for their name and add it to a list. If the name is on the list, you tell them that you already explained they need to call the help desk, if they don’t know how they need to ask their manager for training, and hang up.

If they are not on the list, you tell them they need to call the help desk. You help them making that call until the help desk is called. Before you start helping them, advice them to take notes, because they won’t be helped by you again, and you do not want to be called again for help desk problems and ask if they understand that.

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    This is overly bureaucratic and impersonal for a small company. The focus should be on finding an efficient way to work together, not how to train your internal customers to work the way you want. – Ben Mz Jun 13 '18 at 22:12
  • @BenMz That's daft. The whole point of the question is that these are not his "internal customers", and he doesn't want to work together with them, he wants them to work with the helpdesk as they are supposed to. – gnasher729 Jun 26 '18 at 22:13

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